Criminals attack Church facility in Odisha state in India
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Criminals attack Church facility in Odisha state in India

MUMBAI, India – A group of criminals looted the SVD Divine Word mission in Odisha, a state in western India, on April 10.

A statement from the religious order said 11 people entered the teachers’ quarters which is at St. Arnold primary school in the evening and threatened the workers and the teachers.

The school is in the village of Bagdehi, more than 15 miles northeast of Jharsuguda, the headquarters of the Divine Word congregation’s India East province.

After looting their valuables and taking their mobile phones, the criminals locked them up in a room and strictly ordered them not to shout for any help.

At gunpoint, they then asked a lady worker to take them to the confreres’ residence threatening that they would kill her daughter who was with her if she did not agree. Out of fear, the worker showed them the rooms of the confreres from outside.

A message the provincial sent said the attackers left the mission around 1 am on April 11 carrying cash and valuables.

Location of Odisha in India. (Credit: Wikipedia.)
Location of Odisha in India. (Credit: Wikipedia.)

The provincial said the criminals first entered the teachers’ quarters where eight women teachers resided. They forcefully took their gold chains, earrings and mobile phones at gunpoint.

“The teachers were silenced and forced to shift to one room and the intruders locked the room from outside. They also destroyed their mobiles and asked them to remain silent or get killed,” the official said.

At gunpoint, they asked a woman worker to take them to the nearby priests’ residence. They threatened to kill the woman’s little daughter who was with her.

The criminals first broke open the grill of the presbytery where four priests lived.

Father Christopher John, who was still awake, seeing the grill open, went out to check. The intruders, who were hiding, assaulted him and destroyed his mobile phone.

“The looters after entering their residence thrashed the priests with curtain rods and chairs, tied their hands and legs and locked them in a room,” the provincial said.

They also destroyed their mobiles and one laptop and searched the rooms and looted money amounting less than 100,000 rupees ($1,200).

The assaulted priests managed to untie one of them, who called the police with a phone that had escaped miscreants’ attention. He also called a worker, who lived close to the mission. The worker opened the priests’ room and the priests then opened the room of the teachers and workers.

The priests went to a medical facility managed by the Handmaids of Mary nuns for first aid.

The police later took the priests in an ambulance to the District Hospital in Jharsuguda.

On being informed, some priests from the Provincial’s House rushed to the hospital. They took the four injured clergy back to the mission after their treatment.

The provincial house later contacted the police about the crime. The priests and the teachers “are still under trauma,” the provincial said.

Archbishop John Barwa of of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odisha said the archdiocese never expected a thief to come to the church.

“This was a remote rural area. There’s a railway station nearby, but it’s still a rural area,” he told Crux.

“We need to be alert and ready; whoever expected that thieves would come, but this is the reality of today. We were caught completely unawares. This is our concern: The money stolen was all accounted funds,” the archbishop said.

The vast majority of the population of Odisha is Hindu – over 93 percent. The Catholic population is just 2.7 percent. The state was the scene of a series of riots led by radical Hindus in 2008 that left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced.

Source: Crux